Buddhist ritual bell

Historical period(s)
Kamakura period, 1185-1333
H x W (overall): 14.4 x 6.3 cm (5 11/16 x 2 1/2 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Ceremonial Object, Metalwork

Buddhist ritual implement

Buddhism, ceremony, Japan, Japanese Esoteric Buddhism, Kamakura period (1185 - 1333)

Hiyeizen Temple [1]

To 1903
Bunkio Matsuki (1867-1940), Boston, to 1903 [2]

From 1903 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Bunkio Matsuki in 1903 [3]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [4]


[1] See Curatorial Remark 2, undated folder sheet note. See also, Reserved Bronze List, R.5137, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. Purchased as a set of five, F1903.292-F1903.296.

[2] See note 1.

[3] see note 1.

[4] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Enryakuji Temple
Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
Bunkio Matsuki (C.L. Freer source) 1867-1940


This bronze bell was used in the rituals of Esoteric Buddhism, known in Japanese as Mikkyo. The bell was placed at the center and four points of an altar to represent the central Buddha of the Cosmos, Mahavairocana, and four Buddhas associated with the directions north, east, south, and west.

Elaborate rituals performed by priests were essential to the practice of Mikkyo (literally, "concealed" or "secret" teaching). The complex doctrine of Mikkyo is revealed only to the members of its priesthood.

Published References
  • Paths to Perfection, Buddhist Art at the Freer/Sackler. Washington. pp. 128-131.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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